I could be a more frugal gardener by...

alison(6b/OH)July 5, 2005

I liked the suggestions in the "wasteful pet peeve" about turning attention from other people's annoying habits to improving our own, first.

I have a very small, inner city garden. Because I'm a single person who likes to putter (and is fond of dumpster diving!) I'm pretty frugal -- especially since I discovered winter sowing -- but there's always ways to improve. Off the top of my head, these are a couple of things I could do to be mre frugal.

1) Re-use potting soil. This hasn't been too much of an issue in the past, but having hauled 400 pounds of potting soil up to the second floor balcony this spring for my neighbor, I'm defnitely not dumping it out this fall! Need to look into the best ways to re-use soil for annuals.

2) More soaker hoses. A lot of my garden beds are long, narrow strips along fences, carved out from the landlords lawn. (The "alley bed" is 6-8 inches by 80 feet!) One of the best investments I ever made was in a 20' soaker hose that takes care of the tea plant strip and coils into the shade garden. But investing in another one of two could save water, save time spent watering -- and save plants that die when they don't get watered!

3) Fewer rescues and "pity plants". Like most gardeners, I hate to see plants die. And like many frugal people, I'm hard put to pass up a deal. I can't tell oyu how many houseplants I've nursed back to health from the brink of death on Lowe's 50% off rack -- but I really don't like kalanchoe or ficus, or African violets! It's a challenge I need to quit taking.

Likewise, there are some plants in my little garden that just aren't pulling their weight. They may have beautiful flowers -- but not very many of them. Or lots of flowers, but an equal number of pests. I need to be a little less sentimental and a bit quicker to shovel prune. Frugal is all about saving me time and energy, too!

)GET A PLAN!!! I don't necessarily mean every blade of grass graphed out in advance, but I could save money by having ideas in mind when I go to the nursery or a swap. There's always room for spotanaity and the bolt from the blue that you've never heard of, but a little more cohesiveness would keep my garden fom looking like the results of a summer end clearance sale!

There's a lot more I'd love to do; more compost piles, rain barrels, that I can't do because of my landlord, but these are some simple things I can change.

How about you?

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Yea, a fellow dumpster diver!!!! One thing I want to try to do is winter sow, that will save a lot of money (AND TIME) in the spring...and stop being sucked in by full price plants!!! That's my downfall!!!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 9:25AM
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PuraVida(Costa Rica)

Water is always used at least twice--usually in the house first and second as graywater in the garden.

We make our own organic compost via vermicomposting.

We make our own mulch via other composting activities.

Always try to use things I have before going out and buying anything new.

And by ending one project before starting another one.

Being organic.

Pura Vida

Here is a link that might be useful: garden blog

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 2:13PM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

Growing from seed saves TONS of money. I buy plants (especially on sale) and otherwise.... but growing from seed is super cheap. If you do it right that gallon perennial tha tcost 7 (which isn't so much but it adds up) bucks? You could get like 20 of those or more for 2.00.... or even less if you trade seeds/get them on sale. Good deal. :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 2:29PM
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gingerlili(z8 NW FL)

Yeah! More dumpster divers!

I could be better about putting my plants in the ground. I start with such good intentions and then this and that happens. Even if the plant's a rescue, I should get it out of the old pot and into the ground before it dries out and dies. Not that it happens with every plant, but enough for it to bother me.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 4:04PM
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Vernonia(z7b OR)

I could be more frugal by... hmmm... I dunno, guess I am perfect :) just kidding :) I need some soaker hoses too. summer is bone dry here, and while I have unlimited well water at no cost, I would still prefer to conserve water, and avoid diseases caused by wet leaves. :) And I need to be more vigilant to my seedlings.. they save me less money if I kill some of them *blush*

Alison, maybe you can put those unwanted plants to use by digging them and giving them as gifts to someone else! Saves you buying a monetary present, and you invested a lot of effort in them :) but you might still have to scrounge up a pot :) or you can check some of the swap pages on garden web... maybe you can trade them for something you REALLY want :)

And starting from seeds.... I do my plants from seed whenever possible. I hope you kept all those little pots and nursery flats that you picked up while shopping, they will come in handy :) I never have enough flats, and plastic lined cardboard boxes produce too much waste. :) OH, and don't buy a heating mat! modern refrigerators may not have enough heat on top... but your TV does! and the satellite receiver/cable box, it is warm even when it is turned off.

I must say, I am REALLY enjoying this thread more, it is so positive, and I get to mooch ideas off y'all :) I am always looking for a way to cut costs :) Thank you Alison for starting it, Thank you to you all for sharing :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 4:11PM
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....maybe you can put those unwanted plants to use by digging them and giving them as gifts to someone else....

Uh-oh. You've discovered my secret! (And the source of some of my garden-swap stock!)

Another thing that occurred to me to start thinking about is composting my own kitchen garbage. I have a compost box in the backyard (all the landlord will let my get away with) and I load it up with other people's leaves and bags of organics from the juice bar, but I really don't do much with stuff from inside my house.

My biggest problem has been where to put stuff. I'm unlikely to run outside to the compost box everytime I peel an orange. And my efficiency style kitchen is packed to the gills. I have -- seriously -- a little over 400 square inches of counter space, and all the floor space except a path thru the room and to the appliances has storage units. Even the trash bag hangs from a hook underneath the one counter I have!

But I'm trying to think of a way to hang something like a milk jug, so I can dump organics in it during the course of the day, and take it out and dump it in the bin occasionally. I could rinse it out so it doesn't get too gamey smelling.

Now, if I could only find some inconspicuous place!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 11:57PM
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Like a couple of others here, I really need to do more plants from seed and cuttings and biding my time a little instead of going for the full-grown version.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 11:42PM
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I have limited space for my kitchen compost materials. I use a stainless steel garbage can which has a pull out liner which is about two feet tall, line the bottom with newspapers and place several layers of pages around the inside. If I have something "juicy", I put papers over the top or wrap in newspaper before putting in the can. When full, I take it out to my compost pile. No mess, no smell, out of sight.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 5:23PM
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drasaid(zone 8)

I put a doubled paper bag in there and add to it; then when it gets full I bury it in the compost bin or in the yard.
I started doing it one year when I bought some BAD watermelons. Buying a bad melon is one of those dreadful unforgettable experiances; you slice into it and it HISSES with escaping gas. Then the interior is full of red goo. No no no.
Filled with horror, I buried it in the yard to conceal my shame (after calling Whole Food. They gave me a good one, bless them.)
It was GONE in no time. I suspect some of my composting is done by cockroaches but hey that's urban living.
I do live in New Orleans which is very hot, perhaps that helps with the rotting.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 8:56PM
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This is very off-topic, but to hijack my own thread for a moment...

When I was in college I spent one summer working for the worst people imaginable, running a glorified roadside store. Talking about them would fill an entire website of it's own, but your watermelon horror could have come from that suburban Virginia store.

One week the man scored a truck load of yellow meat melons that "fell off the back" of somebody's delivery van. It was a huge number, and everynight I had to drag all of them from the racks outside the front of the store to the "refrigerated room" -- an uninsulated backroom with an anemic air conditioning unit. Then every morning I had to drag them back out again.

One morning I picked up a melon -- only to have it collapse in my hands! It was completely hollow. Curious, I looked at the rest. Several had neat holes the size of a tennis ball in them. Looking closer, I saw tooth marks around the hole. Rats had been at the melons, chewing their way in, eating themselves silly, then eating out the other side.

Kind of funny now, but the thought of picking one up with a fat and happy rat still inside made my flesh crawl at the time.

A rotten melon is a terrible thing!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 9:34PM
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Alison, since you don't have room on the counter for holding kitchen scraps, why not keep a container in the fridge? Even in the microwave is a good place.

If I were going to be more frugal for gardening, I would keep some worms going during the winter to deal with all of those kitchen scraps. For a family of six though, I would need a lot of worms.

I would also plan on plants for my hanging baskets instead of waiting to buy the baskets already blooming.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 3:24AM
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alex_z7(7 AL)

Alison, if the microwave or fridge won't work, you have no extra counter space so how about going vertical with a small shelf and a big, cute cookie jar to sit on that shelf? It would be an attractive hiding place for scraps. Not very big, granted, but at least you wouldn't have to run outside every time you eat.

I could be a more frugal gardener by finding a way to increase greens for composting. I'm shredding old files at work so I have a LOT of shredded paper and also have a lot of shredded newspaper, but don't have nearly enough greens to offset all that brown. I have not yet gotten the nerve up to take people's grass cuttings because I shudder at the thought of all the weeds in there.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2005 at 10:36PM
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Lily, go ahead & put your carbons in the pile: they'll deteriorate even without added nitrogen. It just takes longer.
Used coffee grounds & tea leaves are sometimes overlooked nitrogen sources, & they're not disgusting to handle(well, tea leaves do sort of ferment, so maybe you need to get them scattered in there pretty fast!)

You can also sprinkle ordinary soil on top of your pile:
It'll both aid in decomposition & help keep your shredded paper from blowing all over the place.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 1:41PM
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1) Make a compost pile. I've been promising myself for years that I was going to do it, but haven't. I toss out so much stuff that could go into that pile.

2) In the absence of a compost pile, bury organic waste in the soil.

3) Stop buying impulse plants and not planting them (I'm just like you, gingerlili).

4) Stop taking every plant that is offered to me, then having to water it and take care of it until I can give it to someone else.

5) Stop planting new stuff and take better care of what I have.

6) Actually clean out that garden space (like I've been saying I was going to do for two years) and plant it.

7) Have a plant sale, get rid of all the excess junk, and plant and care for the ones left.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 7:15PM
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WestEnder(z7 Atlanta GA)

All my kitchen scraps go directly into plastic bags and into the freezer, where they stay until I need freezer space or am ready to add to my compost bin. I read once that a full freezer uses less energy, so what better to take up extra freezer space than assorted scraps I'm too lazy to carry outside every day?

I could be a more frugal gardener if, like some of the others who posted, I would put some of my potted plants into the ground. I usually let new plants stay in a pot for a year or so, and if they survive that and I like the way they looked or bloomed, I put them into the ground. But often I forget or just don't want to transplant, so years can go by without a favorite plant ever making it into the ground. Meanwhile, I'm watering and caring for all the ones I don't really like. I could be more frugal if I would just get rid of some of those plants in pots. Same thing for houseplants. I could be more frugal, and my house would look a lot better, if I'd just get rid of all those stragglers inside, too.

It would also help me save money if I'd label my plants, and keep some kind of record of what I've already bought. Can't count the times I've ordered something because I really liked its looks, then realized I already have it at home, or - worse - had it once before and it didn't like our climate and died. Labels would really help me save money and time. You wouldn't believe how many pots of dirt I water every spring, in the off chance there's a perennial plant hibernating in the pot.

I could be much more frugal if I'd neglect to take my checkbook, credit cards, or ATM card with me when I shop for plants, taking instead only a small amount of cash for the few plants I really need.

I could be more frugal if I'd actually USE all the free raw materials I am constantly bringing home, like bamboo, horse manure, mulch, bricks, stones, etc. I can't pass by anyone's curbside discards, but often do nothing with them when I get them home. They sit in the yard or basement for years.

I could be more frugal if I'd make my own pots with hypertufa, something I really want to do but never take the time to start. I could also save a lot of money by buying a few molds and making my own edging tiles for garden beds. I want to do that -someday -, too.

One thing I have managed to do to save money is to use my local library more effectively. Instead of buying so many gardening books, now I take them out at the library first. I started doing this with the idea that if the book turned out to be really fantastic, only then would I actually buy it. But it turns out that all I really want to do, even with the really good books, is read them once, or look something up, or enjoy the pictures. It's not like I would read the same book over and over if I owned it, and I've been training myself not to buy them, but to borrow them from the library whenever I want to look at them. I do think I've probably saved some dollars by doing this for the past year or so.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 5:16PM
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gingerlili(z8 NW FL)


My friend uses one of those giant plastic prezzle jars to hold scraps for the compost pile. Then she hides it under the sink until she makes a trip to the compost pile. It has a screw on lid, so no odors escape.

But the cookie jar sounds like a cute idea, too.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 6:05PM
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**I could be more frugal if I'd actually USE all the free raw materials I am constantly bringing home, like bamboo, horse manure, mulch, bricks, stones, etc. I can't pass by anyone's curbside discards, but often do nothing with them when I get them home. They sit in the yard or basement for years**

Yeah, that too. :(

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 7:29PM
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Tyrell(Zone 9, CA)

Well, I read quite a few of the entries here, but didn't come across anything that would improve on what I've done for several decades. Here are some highlight frugalities (if there's such a word?)
1. I take my mower bag over to my garden, dump the clippings, spread them about 3 inches deep, then leave them alone. No tilling, weeding, hoeing, or raking- ever. The only tool I use to garden is a hand trowel.
2. I put any and every organic material in my veggie garden. Not just traditional kitchen scraps, but any old articles of clothing made from organic materials- cotton socks, wool sweaters (removing the buttons), leather gloves or belts. Anything that was made from once-living materilas will rot. I just take them out to the garden, part the grass clippings, drop them in and cover them up. All my crop residues at the end of the season go right back in the garden, too. And I've gotten many bags of hair from my barber, for its high nitrogen content- between 12 and 16%.
3. I raise all my veggies from seed, in mini-greenhouses on shelves built from scrap lumber I attach to an east-facing windowsill. I use soil from my garden, reuse the same 4" pots year after year, and no growlights,only good old free sunlight.
3. My watering system is black soaker hose, under the mulch, so there's virtualy no evaportaion loss. In additon, I spliced sections of regular hose into the soaker hose, so no water is lost before it gets to the garden itself from the faucet. The same for between rows of plants, no water is applied there.
4. I save seeds from all my non-hybrid plants, like greenbeans, cukes, melons, onions, garlic (cloves, of course)and one variety of corn. I also let one of my winter broccolis "bolt" or go to seed. You can do the same with carrots, radhishes, cabbage, and many other plants.

Except for things like materials for trellises, and the relaively small cost for seeds for hybrids, the food I produce is virtually free. I've asked people for many years to tell me of a cheaper way to garden. So far,no one has.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 2:27PM
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garden_witch(z6a MI)

....growing more veggies and less flowers =) Of course that means I will need a bigger chest freezer!

....finally getting my greenhouse built. I spend about $20 to $40 a season on tomatoes, peppers, and other plants I could grow from seed in my own greenhouse for pennies.

....weeding more. I have lost more plants to weeds (and in the weeds) than I care to think of, not because I'm lazy, just busy =)

....making the most of what I have, rather than buying things I don't need.

....tilling under the rest of my yard, no more mowing! Thanx to high gas prices, even running my lawnmower is getting expensive.

....simplifying my garden. Consentrate more on low-maintenance, hardy perennials and less on exotic, fussy, fragile plants. The only problem is I'm hooked on the weird stuff =)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 8:42AM
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NinjaPixie(z5 Chicago)

I could get better at starting more plants from cuttings. That way I wouldn't be so easily tempted to pick up "just this one little guy, he's so CYOOOTE!" when I pass a sale!

I've also got to be more frugal with indoor space. We've got two cats who love to chew on nice green leaves, and in our house, there are only a few rooms and surfaces they can't get to. Naturally, they're getting fuller and fuller of planty goodness...

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 1:56PM
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theinfamousj(z7 NC)

... trapping more rainwater than I already do.

Let's face it, I have an easy task. My bedroom has a south-facing window and I am in an apartment with a balcony for gardening. Thus, no need to worry about weeds or ground-based pests. I also have a small space which means that when I'm in the kitchen, I'm close to my vermicomposting bin.

Which reminds me, you can make a vermi-bin out of a 2 liter bottle. If you can fit that in your kitchen, why not compost the scraps at the source?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2005 at 5:15PM
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roseyp8255(z8 - SC AL)

If I could find someone with a chipper, i could chip up all the branches from our numerous trees - perhaps buying one would be the answer?!?! :)
Oh and Gardenwitch - I LOVE your idea of tilling in all the yard - i am working on getting my DH to do the same - he has it figured out that i am going to get rid of all the grass and turn the yard into one big flower bed - which he is fine with!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2005 at 6:33PM
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garden_witch(z6a MI)

"We've got two cats who love to chew on nice green leaves, and in our house, there are only a few rooms and surfaces they can't get to. Naturally, they're getting fuller and fuller of planty goodness.."

Ninjapixie, I have the same problem! I have one cat who is fond of my draceanas in particular =) If I want to keep the cats away from my plants, I have to hang them (the plants, not the cats!) You can pick up eye bolts cheap at your local hardware, then check out goodwill, salvation army and yardsales for macrame hangers (or make your own.) I am dreading bringing in my tropical plants this year, I have two very large ones that will have to be sitting on the floor. Oh, and I have five cats! =^..^=

Rosey, DH said he'd divorce me if I tilled under the whole back yard, so what did he bring me last week? A rototiller! He worked for a guy who rebuilds and sells them, paid $75 for a monster of a machine that could do our whole back yard (and we ain't talkin' small) in a couple hours... hehehehe!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 5:13AM
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roseyp8255(z8 - SC AL)

Gardenwitch - you are lucky your DH brought that to you! :) Will he use it, or make you?

My DH doesn't care - less grass to cut - which will free him up for hunting, fishing, Volunteer Fire Dept, ETC. :) he knows i love my plants - We have 5 acres, but only about 1/2 of it is "open/cultivated" - the other 1/2 is woods behind the house - course, i do have plans for it as well! :)

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 10:00AM
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I love the positive approach of this thread! I can be a more frugal gardener if I'd reassemble the greenhouse I still have in storage since we moved here to the mountains, and started growing more things from seed and cuttings. I should also go ahead and create a sunk-in-the-ground trashcan composter for my cats' litterbox contents, instead of adding it to the landfill. We're already a committed recycling and composting household, at least, and whenever I need to buy things, I check out a local store that specializes in reselling items with damaged packaging and overstocks.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 10:25AM
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suzieh(z9 Altadena CA)

* Get more free bunny manure from person I met via craigslist early this summer

* Start another worm bin (dang mice got my big fat wormmies before I could get the 2nd bin going)

* Get another compost pile going....been putting off the raking of fallen leaves (allergies)

* Hit up utility or tree service for some free chipped wood to line my paths.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 3:44PM
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gardenpaws_VA(z7 NoVA)

Building proper lasagna beds, at least for veggies and any area which needs to be reworked anyway. I just got a shredder and basket for a total of $2 (yard sale and freecycle), and redoing the beds would reduce my water bill. I've been using graywater from the shower to keep non-veggies alive this summer, and better soil would help with those needs so that I could use (less) fresh water where it really matters (like on the ready-to-pick everbearing strawberries).

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 10:33PM
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Set up three very frugal "holding bins" for some of the plants I'm picking up on sales around town.

I drilled holes in the bottom of three 2'x3'x10" black plastic tubs. (I think they're for mixing cement; found them by the dumpsters last week.)

I broke down pizza and Tim Horton's boxes (it's fund drive time!) and layered them with the contents of two bags from the juice bar, topped them with a layer of coffee grounds from two trips to Starbucks.

Finished them off with half-price potting soil from Lowe's, that I got in a broken bag.

Now, if I can just remind myself to keep stopping by the juice bar and Starbucks regularly, I'll have added 3" to the whole front yard by spring!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2005 at 11:45AM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

I've been doing pretty good these past two years, And I can attribute the improvements to all the encouragement, commeraderie, and ideas shared on GW forums. Thanks everyone!

So, here's what I have been doing:

...selling plants that didn't work for my yard at my kids 4-H club rummage. I have gotten rid of plants that bother my migraines(sage, chysanthemum, and any other aromatic families,) clash with the color of the house (lots of magenta peonies were around this barn red house when we bought it,) or that needed to be thinned out (iris.)

...picked a rew buckets of mulch from our municipality's free mulch center every time I picked up my daughter from swim practice, since the high school is nearby. Getting mulch in small quantities was also great for preventing over-doing it injuries, and made the task of adding fresh mulch very easy.

...tried wintersowing. Yay!! I used up all of those seeds I had for years and meant to 'get around to.' Most still sprouted, and I got a lot of plants to fill areas that had just been weeds. For next year, I am going to wintersow directly in one gallon containers, with milk jug cloches, to reduce the potting up chores. I already have the milk jugs cut and strung up waiting in my potting shed.

...trying to not start another project before I get the previous one(s) done. Which basically means finishing up zillions of little projects I've already started.

...not bringing home any more 'other people's cast-offs,' unless I can put them in use immediately, as I have waaaaay to many pieces laying about, waiting for me to get 'around to-it.'

...collecting coffee grounds from Starbucks every time I am in that area. Best time to get a full bag for me has been late afternoon or evening.

...moving plants around in my yard. Some of my best design improvements to my yard have come from moving a plant from where it wasn't quite working, to a spot where it really fit. My garden is looking much better, with no money spent, just some time and care.

So, for me, this year has been about using the resources I already had, which has been not only frugal, but good for my garden design, my health, and my marriage ;-)

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 9:43AM
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beachbarbie(z9a/8b NC)

I could manage my compost bins better. Right now, I don't turn them and I know the ration between green and brown is way off.
I could also plan my gardens better.
Such as: before planting saomething, understand what it's going to do and like. I tend to get excited and put something in an empty spot without though as to what the plants around it are going to do.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 10:07AM
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